A woman has died after being incorrectly excluded from the Scottish cervical screening programme.
Women’s heath minister Maree Todd has now issued condolences to the family of the woman, who died from cervical cancer.
In a statement, the Scottish Government said around 430 women who were wrongly excluded from the programme over the last 24 years are now being offered fast-tracked appointments with GP practices or gynaecology services following an urgent review of cases
They also confirmed that a national review is taking place of everyone who has been excluded from the screening programme.
Todd offered her “heartfelt apologies” to the excluded women who went on to develop cancer.
The Government said that an issue came to light during a routine audit of cervical cancer data in a single NHS Health Board.
This found that a small number of women had been excluded from the programme some years ago following a hysterectomy, but had unfortunately subsequently developed cervical cancer, the Government said.
“I offer my heartfelt apologies in particular to the women who were excluded from the programme who went on to develop cancer, and to their families.”Maree Todd, women’s health minister
Todd said: “I want to offer my condolences to the family of the woman who we now know died from cervical cancer after being excluded from the screening programme.
“These exclusions from the cervical screening programme should not have happened and I want to apologise to all those affected by this error.
“I offer my heartfelt apologies in particular to the women who were excluded from the programme who went on to develop cancer, and to their families.
“Anyone whose records indicate they may have had a sub-total hysterectomy after 1997 and been wrongly excluded from screening will have received a letter or be in the process of receiving one within the next few days and will be offered an appointment appropriate to their individual circumstances.”
Todd said that funding is being provided by the Scottish Government to the charity, Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust.
“While some exclusions have been wrongly applied across Scotland, the vast majority will have been applied correctly and additional control measures have been put in place to prevent any new exclusions from being applied incorrectly,” said Todd.
“It is important to stress that the overall risk of developing cervical cancer remains low and people should not be unduly alarmed.
“The Scottish Government is providing funding to the charity Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust to ensure its helpline is appropriately resourced and available for anyone seeking support or reassurance.
“There is no need for anyone who does not receive a letter to take any action but it remains important for everyone, whether affected by this issue or not, to be alert for symptoms of cervical cancer and contact your GP practice if you have any. Further information on symptoms can be found on NHS inform.”
“This is a serious public health failure.”Alex Cole-Hamilton, Scottish Liberal Democrats
Scottish Labour health and social care spokesperson Jackie Baillie said: “This an extremely serious situation and our thoughts are with the women who have been affected.
“The truth is we do not yet know the full scale of this error but it could impact on many more women than the 220 excluded from the screening programme since 1997.
“It is, of course, critical that women are contacted urgently and offered information and support.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesperson Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP said: “This is a serious public health failure. It will be deeply alarming news to women across the country and it is a tragic reminder of the importance of robust screening programmes.
“The government must do whatever it takes to quickly identify and contact every woman who may have been affected and guarantee that anyone who is worried can access advice and support without delay.
“We also need to know how these screening errors went undetected for so long and escaped the eye of audit after audit.”
Scottish Greens health and social care spokesperson Gillian Mackay said: “The government has said that women who have received total hysterectomies should not contact health services but wait to see if they are contacted.
“This will be an extremely anxious time for any woman who has received a hysterectomy. It’s therefore essential that this work is carried out at pace and all those affected are contacted urgently.”